'Foresee an India where Religion is just a co-incidental factor' – Salman Khurshid

December 26, 2009

Union Minister of State (with Independent Charge) for Corporate Affairs and Minority Affairs, Mr Salman Khurshid visited Manipal on Wednesday, 23rd December. He was there to give the first lecture of the Silver Jubilee Leadership Lecture Series at the T A Pai Management Institute, Manipal (TAPMI). He spoke on Corporate Governance and said that the Company Act has been extensively revised and a bill in this regard could be placed as early as in the next session of the parliament. The new bill would call for greater transparency, accountability and better methods of corporate governance.

Salman Khurshid is a prominent leader of the Congress party and has concentrated on the issues regarding the Minority Communities. A lawyer by profession, he is also a keen educationist. He had been officer on special duty (1981) to Former Prime Minister Smt Indira Gandhi and was the Deputy Commerce Minister in the Narasimha Rao Government. He has also been President of the Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh.

After the TAPMI lecture, the Minister visited the Manipal University campus and later in the day gave an exclusive interview to Divvy Kant Upadhyay :

Q. Corporate governance is assuming great significance in India which has socialism as one of its founding pillars. Comments from someone incharge of Corporate Affairs…

Our idea about the future of Corporate India is that the ultimate investor has to be the ‘Aam Aadmi’, the average Indian. The same average Indian who is today credited with the highest levels of the household income in developing countries. Large parts of those household savings do not get into the capital markets. There are savings in several different forms but they don’t get into the capital market and that is because some how people feel that business and industry in India are a world apart seen from (the point of view of) an average Indian.
Secondly there is a great concern about the value addition in rural India - for the agriculturist. This value addition is coming, the economy is growing, creation of wealth is taking place but this (growth) has to ensure that the Indian farmer is a total participant in this process of corporate India. That is the ambition which the government will work towards.

Q. What is the basic difference between a business entity and a corporate entity? Are regular business people not equivalent to corporate people? How and where is the line drawn between the two?

Even though they share many attributes, the difference between them is like the difference between an MP and a street politician.

Q.  So you are hinting at a greater outreach?

Yes you have a larger outreach and you work within an Institutional frame work. As a street Politician, you don’t necessarily (work according to a set frame of rules). As an MP you become responsible to people, responsible to Parliament, you participate in debates, you subscribe to certain roles, you have certain rights as well as you have certain obligations.

We are trying to reduce the gap between the Business and corporate functioning. And that’s being done by introduction of the limited liability participation. You have proprietorship which means individual ownership. In a partnership two or more individual come together. A company is where individuals buy certain rights, in form of shares, in the functioning of the company. And being share holders they are entitled to some benefits as well. In between partnership and share holding is being created a new idea that is called – ‘limited liability participation’. It’s partly like a corporation and partly like the partnership. It has the best of two worlds. So that is how we are bridging the gap between business people and corporate people.

Q. These days critics feel ‘inclusiveness’ should be factored in on economic standing of individuals rather than factors such as caste or religion. Your views.

I think there are problems and the Sachar committee report did point out certain issues.
There are two ways to look at it. (One is) because you belong to a particular religion therefore you are not getting a fair share of your opportunities. I think we have had a lot of that in this country. I don’t think it is necessary (any longer).

(The other is) You can be identified by language, region, religion, social attributes etc., as long as you are identified as a ‘group’ in a democracy where religion is ‘coincidental’. (An India) where religion is not the main factor, it is just coincidental.

When you say that religion is not coincidental and it is infact the cause (of the problems) then you are being divisive. But if you treat it as a coincidental factor, you (can) address any prejudice or lack of opportunities without having to argue about it and that’s why we are trying to bring in the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). The EOC will look objectively at groups of people that complaint of not being fairly represented – whether in the field of employment or education and so on. The commission will insist upon the diversity profile of the institution or a group that it is being implored. This means incorporating and including people on basis of several factors of which religion is just one factor, not necessarily the dominant factor. The EOC would look at providing equal chances to the majority groups as well.

Q) – How long before the EOC starts functioning ?

We are working on it. A Group of Ministers have been appointed to look into forming a legislation. Over the next couple of months, we will be able to take a final view.

Q) As a seasoned political leader from Uttar Pradesh and of the Congress party, how do you see the reported rise of Mr Rahul Gandhi as a political leader? He’s the most googled politician in India, he’s voted as Indian of the year in Politics on a leading English TV News Channel that goes on to say his name has become synonymous with political credibility. Your comments.

Well, I think that’s a wonderful thing. His personal attributes have great attraction and a great deal to offer. But to that if a message of political credibility is added – more so today when credibility is the biggest question mark on people in public life for various reasons – and this cuts across parties – there is cynicism about politics and public life –, if a person can symbolically or substantially break that cynicism, I think he would be doing a great service to the nation.

(Things have changed), four years ago people weren’t feeling the same for him. People were being difficult. People were being questioning of his motives or his escalated advancement in politics. But I think with sheer grit, hardwork and sincerity, he has dispelled those doubts and he is beginning to grow in stature every day.

Q.  At the TAPMI lecture this morning, you said you were overwhelmed by what you saw at Manipal and had you been younger, you would have like to be at Manipal. Having yourself traveled far and wide, how did you reach that conclusion?

The facilities which I saw here are comparable to the best in the world. And from what I know about the quality of the students and how difficult it is to get in and how strictly merit is followed, I have no reason to doubt that this place is one of the top educational institutions of our country.

The only sad thing (in india) is that, ‘contact’ and ‘dialogue’ between centres of power and centres of great intellectual accomplishment like Manipal is very sporadic and shallow. I think the people who are involved in deciding about the future of our country should be compelled, by their own sense of obligation and duty to perform well, to spend more time in a place like Manipal. I think it’s an enriching and enlightening experience. In the little time that I have spent here, I think I have only seen the surface. I think, to be able to spend more time here, to interact with the faculty and the students would be an invaluable experience.

Q)  The Indian Republic is turning 60 next month. Where do you think India is headed?

On a road that is marked to brilliant destination, but with a lot of potholes.

by Divvy Kant Upadhyay
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Comment on this article

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Sun, Dec 27 2009

    As predicted by the Minister, if everybody could see religion as a co-incidental factor, it could have avoided a lot of problems in the society. But for the the majority of the people, religion has great hold on them, and some of them will turn too much influenced and controlled by religion in its radical side, then problem starts. Let us hope that his predictions will come true one day. By attending the Church at the Christmas eve shows his broadminded approach with religion, also his greatness.

  • Shetty, mangalore

    Sun, Dec 27 2009

    Very good..please immediately dissolve the sachar commitee..

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